No sympathy for Unionists

Andrew Tickell is hardly the first to suggest that we all should sympathise with “the very sorts who really bought into Better Together vision of Britain“. That we should show some understanding for people who were grievously deceived. That we should be supportive of people who have suffered a great loss.

Maybe so. But, while I don’t for one moment doubt Andrew’s sincerity, I often sense a measure of self-indulgence about the more extravagant displays of fellow feeling. More than a hint of self-righteousness. Perhaps a pinch of condescension. All bound together with a generous helping of moral superiority. Virtue-signalling is very much the dish of the day.

I am generally in favour of sympathy. If I say society has deteriorated over recent decades largely due to a declining capacity for human empathy, this may be more than just the tendency to rose-tinted hindsight which often comes with age. But if sympathy is a scarce and, arguably, diminishing resource, should it not be apportioned judiciously. As individuals, we cannot possibly sympathise with all who may be deserving. If this ever were possible, advances in communication mean that there are now vastly more calls on our sympathy than we can hope to satisfy.

Unless we’re Luddite hermits, we spend much of our days immersed in stories and images evidencing man’s inhumanity to man in graphic and gory detail. Rolling news on TV and online is a litany of atrocities, each with its list of victims for whom we are expected to grieve. We are obliged to be selective. We must be parsimonious with our sympathy lest we be reduced to a dessicated husk, sucked dry of all emotion. And if this makes us seem betimes hard-hearted or heartless, then I’m sorry. But only as sorry as I can afford to be.

Where should those suffering No voters be placed as we prioritise the calls on our stock of sympathy? What is it they have lost? Only their illusions. The scales have fallen from their eyes and, discomfiting as this may be, it hardly compares with the loss of limbs or loved ones. An emotional attachment has been severed. But the wound bleeds only in the sense of an over-contrived metaphor.

Losing something to which we are inexplicably and irrationally bound is part of the human experience. It can be painful. But it can also be formative. Before we lavish too much sympathy on Unionists coming to terms with the collapse of so much that had seemed to them solid and dependable, consider the true nature of their plight. Theirs is not a loss of the kind that leaves an aching void that can never be filled. It is more in the nature of a moving on. What they feel is, not the life-blighting pain of bereavement, but the passing pangs of nostalgia. They have not been permanently deprived of something irreplaceable. They have shed the burden of something that has proved unworthy.

Listen to those who have made the journey from No to Yes. Do they seem bereft? Do they give the impression that a part of their being has been stripped from them leaving a raw and festering wound that will not heal? Or is it more as if a layer has been peeled away to reveal something fresh and fulfilling?

Losing the Union doesn’t leave you alone. It leaves you in better company. It does not call for sympathy. It is cause for celebration.

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To be a Unionist

David Mundell

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must be prepared to accept humiliation, not as an insult to be stoically borne or desperately rationalised, but as a natural part of ones condition as a subject of the British state.

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must be so persuaded of the superiority of the British ruling elite that ones own inferiority is worn with the same ease as ones own skin.

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must consent to the denial by the British state of democratic rights which in all other circumstances would be considered inalienable.

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must stand ready to sacrifice the needs, priorities and aspirations of ones country to the imperative of preserving the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

To be a Nationalist in Scotland, you need only maintain that Scotland, its people, its land, its culture and its democratic institutions are worthy of being treated with the respect generally regarded as the due of any nation.

To be a Nationalist in Scotland, you need only believe that good government is never further removed from the governed than is consistent with its function. And that decisions about Scotland’s future must be made by the people of Scotland.

To be a Nationalist in Scotland, you need only insist that the people of Scotland are sovereign. And that they must never be denied the full and effective exercise of their sovereignty.

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A unionist leader?

Iain MacWhirter

Writing in The Herald, Iain MacWhirter asks whether a single, commonly acknowledged and generally accepted leader might emerge for the unionist cause.[1] It has to be very doubtful indeed. Such a leader presupposes a single clear idea on which to campaign. And the only such idea that seems to have any currency among British nationalists is a near-fanatical obsession with preserving the union at any cost.

That so many in the anti-independence camp now seem prepared to compromise on that “line in the sand” of which Ruth Davidson spoke seems to suggest a growing realisation that an intransigent insistence on the status quo is a loser and that compromise is required if Scotland’s secession from the union is to be prevented.

But compromise is anathema to the hard-core of British nationalism. The differences between the unionists and even the most reluctant and restrictive devolutionists are every bit as great as the divide between unionists and nationalists. Forsyth and Cameron cannot make common cause, far less Forsyth and Darling. The unionist campaign cannot gel. It cannot coalesce. It cannot have one leader.

Alex Salmond and his team have cleverly contrived to aggravate the factionalism within the unionist camp. Had Salmond not dropped “devo-max” into the mix then it is likely that the forces of unionism might have been able to focus on a concerted anti-independence campaign. The wounds having been opened up there seems little possibility that they will ever heal sufficiently for a unified effort to be possible.

 1 – Can the Unionist campaign coalesce round one leader? | Herald Scotland